February 7, 2013

Free Agent Forecast: Winnipeg Blue Bombers


CFL.ca Staff

WINNIPEG — As the February 15th free agency deadline nears, CFL.ca is breaking down each team’s potential needs, wants and wish list.  Today we look at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Related: Bombers off-season

» Veteran January extends with Bombers
» All-Star DB Hefney re-ups with Winnipeg
» Bombers re-sign Sears, Palardy
» Pair of Canadians ink new deals
» Goltz, Volny, Garret re-sign with Bombers
» Hefney crucial to Bombers success
» January hoping for more stability

The hope and optimism that appeared following Winnipeg’s surprising 2011 Grey Cup appearance was quickly vanquished in 2012 as the Bombers were dealt a difficult and often uncompromising hand that saw them miss the post-season for the third time in four years.

However, the Bombers have an opportunity to re-create their magic from two years ago. A new stadium in Winnipeg has the potential to usher in a new era of unbridled optimism, but only if the product on the field performs in front of the rabid Bombers fanbase.

General Manager Joe Mack has already done some work in keeping several of his team’s key assets in the same locker room, but how much more will he have to do to make the Winnipeg faithful forget about last season’s frustration?  

The work done so far:

Winnipeg’s core on both sides of the ball remains relatively intact. Mack has made it a priority of his to re-sign players who have developed into mainstays within the Winnipeg organization.

Offensively, Glenn January and Cory Watson will be wearing Blue and Gold in 2013 after signing new deals in January, while Jonathan Hefney and Johnny Sears will also return and will look to become integral parts of new Defensive Coordinator Casey Creehan’s defence.

One thing the Bombers won’t have to worry about in 2013 is their depth at running back, as Chris Garrett and Carl Volny will both be back, hoping to push themselves up the depth chart following strong seasons by Chad Simpson and Will Ford.

Behind centre, the Bombers made it clear that they have yet to make a decision as to who will be throwing passes in 2013, which is likely why they re-signed fourth-string pivot Justin Goltz to a new deal.

Potential Departures:

Of the Bombers’ 12 potential free agents, only five have been re-signed (OL Kelly Butler has since retired and Jason Vega has agreed to terms with the New England Patriots), leaving the possibility for five players to find new work in the CFL.

Among them are DB Deon Beasley, LB Marcellus Bowman, WR Clarence Denmark, DL Fernand Kashama and DE Bryant Turner.

Back in the fold?

With the departure of Jason Vega to the NFL’s New England Patriots, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers might be on the hunt for a replacement. Is Odell Willis the answer?

While Denmark saw a dip in his numbers in 2012, that can largely be associated to the inconsistencies the Bombers experienced at quarterback. Should he leave and land on a team with an established QB, expect him to get back to his 2011 form.

Beasley went through an injury-plagued 2012 campaign, playing just seven games and registering only 10 tackles and no interceptions for the second-straight year.

Turner might be the biggest fish in the Bombers’ pool, as he led collected an impressive six sacks in just 14 games in 2012.

Who may be on the radar?:

Mack has indicated throughout the off-season that he may look outside of the current roster to find the right person to lead the team at quarterback.

That being said, the Bombers might look in the direction of former Alouettes backup Adrian McPherson, who was released by Montreal on Feb. 2.

And while it might be a stretch, it’s possible the Bombers bring back Odelll Willis to replace the services of Vega on the team’s defensive line.